Mobilization of the American war effort was an immense undertaking. Decisions about everything from how to form fighting units, to manufacturing the needed equipment, to the logistics of transport and supply had to be addressed. Part of this planning was the decision to send artists to cover the war in Europe.
Eight professional illustrators, commissioned as U.S. Army officers, were embedded with the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) in France in early 1918. Their mission was to capture the wide-ranging activities of American soldiers, including combat, with the intent of shaping popular understanding at home of the war experiences of the AEF.
On April 6, 1917, the United States entered World War I, setting America on a course to become an important player on the world stage. It was a turning point in the nation’s history that still reverberates through world events a century later. The Museum’s centerpiece presentation in observance of the 100th anniversary of World War I is Artist Soldiers: Artistic Expression in the First World War, a new exhibition in the Museum’s Flight in the Arts gallery. A collaboration with the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, the exhibition features largely never-before-seen artwork, produced by soldiers, that sheds light on World War I in a compelling and very human way.
When the soldiers of Europe marched off to war in the late summer of 1914, most expected an adventure that would last mere weeks or months. By the end, in November 1918, millions had been consumed by four years of grinding, mechanized warfare. Casualties, military and civilian, numbered nearly 38 million—more than 17 million dead and 20 million wounded. The psychological and emotional toll was incalculable. Some of the stone carvings capture the enormity of the catastrophe.
Over a period of several years, photographer Jeff Gusky made numerous excursions into a forgotten world of underground WWI soldiers' living spaces and documented the stone carvings of the soldiers with high-end art photography.
What made the balloon such a key graphic element in political and social satire for over one century? Was it the bulbous shape, or the fact that balloons are wayward craft that tend to go where the wind blows, in spite of the aeronaut’s best efforts? Whatever the reason, the great comic artists of the 18th and 19th century turned to the balloon time and time again in order to poke fun at people and events. The meaning of many of the political satires, the inside joke, is often lost on us today. If any of our friends out there can enlighten us as to the story behind one of these mysteries, we welcome the assistance!
In the Museum’s exhibition Art of the Airport Tower, and companion book, dramatic stone and metal structures stretch out over muted skies speckled with clouds. Look closer. If you’re like photographer and museum specialist Carolyn Russo these photographs of airport towers reveal something else: Swiss cheese, birds, insects, and even top hats.
At the Museum we’re fortunate to host many of the nation’s aerospace icons. This was certainly the case earlier this year when Gemini 10 and Apollo 11 astronaut Michael Collins was on hand for our 2016 John H. Glenn Lecture, Spaceflight: Then, Now, Next.
Scientific images can rival those of the most talented artists, a fact that is now on display in A New Moon Rises at our Museum in Washington, DC. Take, for example, an image of Reiner Gamma, a beautiful and strange feature on the Moon that looks as though a tadpole has been painted across the flat surface of Oceanus Procellarum. The image demonstrates the phenomenon of lunar swirls – bright patterns that some scientists believe may result from the solar wind striking the lunar soil. A localized magnetic field anomaly may have given this swirl its peculiar shape. The photo is densely packed with scientific information.
Eighteenth century ladies fans are not something visitors normally expect to encounter in the National Air and Space Museum. Nevertheless, we have them! The Evelyn Way Kendall Ballooning and Early Aviation Collection, acquired in 2014 thanks to the generosity of the Norfolk Charitable Trust, includes over 1,000 works of art, prints, posters, objects, manuscripts, and books documenting the history of flight from the first balloon ascensions in 1783 through the early years of the twentieth century.